Caring for Patients with Limited English Proficiency

The Perspectives of Small Group Practitioners

This article focused on the relationship between limited English proficiency (LEP) among the patient population and physician services. The study sample was 67 individuals, 45 physicians and 22 office managers, who participated in a total of nine computer-assisted telephone (CAT) focus groups. Topics addressed in the focus groups were communication concerns in regard to LEP patients, attributes of communication practices with LEP patients, and the use of interpreters. Coded focus groups yielded a number of pattern themes related to LEP and physician services.

Key Findings:

  • One major theme garnered from focus group data was why physicians use certain communication strategies with LEP patients and the physicians' views on these strategies. For example, family and friends were the most frequently used interpreters by physicians working with LEP patients.
  • Another major theme was the concern about LEP patient care expressed by both physicians and office managers. Time, convenience, quality of care and liability were issues cited in reference to this theme.
  • The third major theme pertained to physician and office managers' views on the cost of services provided to LEP patients. Many comments were made about the high cost of services to LEP patients, but there was a lack of information cited in regard to how much such services actually cost.